The rapid development and innovation of green energy has introduced a range of potential solutions for the mobile telecom industry. Each solution has its own pre-requisites, possibilities and limitations; therefore solution identification should be based on site specifications.
There are a number of pros & cons for each of the various solutions that need to be considered with respect to business viability, potential OPEX saving through pilot projects, site visits, case studies, analysis & comparisons etc. Through the Deployment Tracker, GPM has been tracking the progress of the industry globally. It is currently tracking over 40,000 live and planned green solution deployments.
Listed below are the most common technologies choices used in the industry. Select a technology to learn more:
Solar is the most commonly used green energy source for telecom and the favoured option for low load sites.
Due to the enormous solar resource, wide availability of commoditised solar modules, ease of planning and low operating costs, solar is a favoured choice for green power solutions in many regions. It is especially attractive for small load sites where there is space available for the deployment. The recent steady decline of solar module costs has made this solution even more financially more viable than the past.
Pure solar deployments may not be very attractive in many occasions due to the high CAPEX. Solar hybrid with DG is often found to be an even more attractive solution. As solar radiation is not available consistently though-out the day, proper control systems and storage technology is essential to making solar solutions efficient and viable.
The most common types of solar modules are made from mono or poly-crystalline silicon. Mono-crystalline modules produce more energy for a given area of module, but are more expensive than poly-crystalline modules.
The current GPM Deployment Tracker tracks over 16,000 solar deployments globally and the number is steadily growing every year.
There are a number of global, regional and local vendors as well as system integrators available to provide solar solutions for telecom sites. Our global vendor catalogue and regional vendor catalogues have captured both the active global and regional players to support mobile network operators in deploying solar solutions. Some of those vendors are now GSMA Associate Members including, but not exclusive to, Ameresco Solar, Eltek and Phaesun. Back
Wind is one of the most cost effective solutions; but only if there are consistently high wind-speeds available at the sites location. Wind speed analysis has to be conducted before selecting any site for deploying the solution. The wind speed vs. power generation curve is a very important element to look at before considering a wind solution.
Due to inconsistent and variable wind speeds across the globe, wind-only solutions are likely to be restricted to locations with abundant wind resources such as coastal or plains. Wind-DG hybrid or Wind-Solar hybrids may be a better combination to consider if a site has a consistent wind speed for a few hours a day or few months a year. Wind solutions may also be appropriate for sites in unreliable grid regions.
Baring in mind that wind turbines have to be installed at quite a height, the telecom industry is investigating the options for re-utilising existing telecom towers to install wind turbines.
With these solutions, turbines rotate by the thrust of the wind and generate electricity using an electromagnetic generator. Wind turbines vary from small (<1kW) units for off-grid applications to several mW for on-grid production.
The green deployment tracker is now tracking around 550 wind-only and 1600 Wind-Solar deployments globally.
Small scale wind turbines are now available from a number of manufacturers and are suitable for base station site load requirements.
Our global vendor listing and regional vendor listing have captured both the active global and regional players to support mobile network operators with deploying Wind solution. Some of these vendors are now GSMA Associate Members and also participate actively in our Working Groups. Back
Fuel Cell systems have long been considered suitable only for remote stationary power applications with a high cost of downtime. Fuel cell design and manufacturing improvements combined with increased volumes being produced have seen the costs come down while technical performance, reliability and longevity have been improving. This has seen the technology transition from field trials at base stations to commercial deployments over the last 2-3 years.
Fuels cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity. Hydrogen can be supplied in compressed gas cylinders or can be produced on-site by ’reforming’ a fuel such as ammonia, propane, Bio CNG or methanol. Since a fuel cell is a supply dependant solution, identifying and establishing a fuel supply chain is crucial. In many occasions, it is found that mobile network operators choose fuel cells are there preferred solution, only if it comes with fuel supply assurance.
The recent development of fuel cell deployments across the world is very encouraging. The deployment tracker currently counts around 800 fuel cells deployed at telecom sites globally.
Ballard, ElectroPS, M-Field, ReliOn, Diverse energy and Intelligence Energy are some of the known manufacture of fuel cells globally. Ballard and Intelligence Energy are also Associate Members of GSMA.
Pico-hydro refers to very small hydro power solutions, typically less than 10kW that can harness the power of streams or rivers and produce enough power for small or household use. This can be a great solution if a water stream is found near a telecom site and the solution is easy to deploy.
In pico hydro, the water stream hits the rotor and make it rotates which generate power through an electromagnetic generator. Depends on the streams current, the rotation of the rotor varies and generates different amounts of power. Pico hydro is a mature technology for other applications such as rural electrification.
A number of pico hydro manufacturer are now targeting telecoms as a potential industry to deploy this solution. In the recent past, there has been significant progress in deploying low cost, easy-to-deploy pico hydro solutions for telecom. A number of operational pilots in telecoms are live and running in different part of the world. However, availability of a water stream, with a strong enough current, near a telecom site, transmitting power from generator to telecom site and maintaining the overall operation can be limiting factors of scaling.
SMART hydro Power is currently the only listed pico hydro solution provider for telecom towers in GPM vendor catalogue.
BIOMASS AND BIOGAS
Biomass gasifier and biogas based power generators are widely-used, local, supply dependant energy solutions. Millions of units have been deployed globally using these solutions, but mainly for household or large industry usage. In telecom, biomass and biogas based solutions are rapidly picking up.
Varieties of biomass including husk and wood are used in gasifiers and are converted into syngas which runs the engine and generates power. Different biomass’ have different calorific values and produce different amounts of power depending on the engine size. In last few years, biomass gasifiers has been trialled and tested in many telecom networks. Some of the trials are now moving forward for scaled deployments. Sites with high energy requirements would bode well with this solution.
Biogas can be produced through locally available raw materials, recycled waste and wet manure. The gas is produced through digestion of collected waste or manure. The produced biogas can be used to generate power through a gas based engine or a Stirling engine. Sites with any sized energy requirement would suit this type of solution.
In both cases, having a strong supply chain is essential to keeping the solution operational. Supply chain management is required along with manned manual operation of the biomass or biogas solution. Telecom operators do not usually take the lead in generating power through these solutions, rather outsource the activity to a 3rd party to run, operate and maintain the site.
There are many global and regional biomass and biogas based solution providers or system integrators that are now available in the world. Some of these are listed in our global and regional vendor catalogues. Back
Energy storage is a key component of hybrid renewable site implementation at telecom sites. There are many ways of storing energy which include:
- Fuel cell
- Compressed air
- Pumped hydro
- Pumped heat
Among these, battery is the most conventional storage technology, whereas fuel cell and compressed air are less so. Pumped hydro, pump heat and gravity is non-existence in telecom.
Batteries are a key component of off-grid and unreliable grid power solutions. They are also used in combination with green power solutions. Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) is the most commonly used battery in telecom. Besides this, smart and green batteries like Sodium Sulfide and Lithium Ion are also picking up in the marketplace. However, due to high CAPEX, smart and green batteries are yet to get a scale.
Compress Air energy storage (CAES) is mainly for industrial usage. There are some manufacturer who producing low capacity CAES for telecom and household use.
There is no example of trailing Pumped hydro, pumped head and gravity for telecom site.
The Green Power vendor listing has a good number of storage technology provides – please review for more information.